This Is How You Lose The Time War [Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone]

Date Started: 31 May, 2021

Date Completed: 19 June, 2021

Source: Amazon India Kindle Store

Goodreads summary:

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

Goodreads: This Is How You Lose The Time War


  • This is built around the concept of two rival factions? civilisations? Let’s just say great powers – that are both trying to defeat each other by sending time travelers into the past to change history to suit themselves. Well, that itself is new for me. Usually I’ve only come across one evil empire doing that followed by a hero trying to change it back. Both sides nakedly and unapologetically changing it to suit themselves is not something I’ve encountered before. But that might say more about me than about the book.
  • It’s plot light, and epistolary. The two most skilled agents on each side of the war keep writing to each other, first out of rivalry, and then out of affection.
  • There are two marvelous things about the book – the medium chosen for the letters (a frog could be a letter, a tree could be a letter – you eat it or burn it and get the message from the smoke). What a triumph of imagination. The other is the language of the letters themselves – it’s playful, punning, full of references and cross references.
  • It would have probably worked best not as a one-sitting read, but as a book to dip into one letter at a time. Unfortunately, it hit a sour spot for me – not enough plot to be a book to read through in one go, not distracting myself with any other books, but also just enough plot that reading one letter at a time made me lose my thread.
  • Again, that probably says more about me and my indiscipline in reading poetry, than about the book.

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